Amici’s John Harris & Joel Aiken
“This is a winemakers’ winery.”
That Amici’s Associate Winemaker Bobby Donnell was speaking truth to me – and not just laying out the typical wine country cliché – was evidenced by the total lack of anything resembling Napa Valley “Why, yes I DID!” pomposity in Amici’s vinous Calistoga hamlet.
Maybe it’s due to owner John Harris’ down-to-earth influence, consulting winemaker Joel Aiken’s humility, or the winery’s somewhat-off-the-beaten-path location (or all three), but the Adult Wine Disneyland factor is pretty much approaching the zero line when it comes to graphing the esprit of Amici’s Cabernet production. Their reds are certainly Napa-esque fruity and powerful, but they’re also often tinged with energy, depth, and nuance. They wear lace in all the right places. And based on the asking prices, they got the laces at a discount (by Napa standards, anyway).
Trailer, but not trash
But the above is also a nice way of saying that when you visit Amici, you’ll see… trailers. With barrels and space heaters in them. That’s where Aiken and Donnell house “a whopping ten tons” of production using whole berry fermentation, mostly for experimentation (though some portion now makes it into the Napa Valley Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet production). The reason? Outside trailers are the only room that they have left.
As Donnell put it, “the nickel tour involves bathroom, too!”
For my dinero, though, that’s all just fine. A lack of showcase winery adornment is more than made up in the experience that you’ll have in the bottle of typical Amici Cab, which offers the better aspects of NV red with a number on the price tag that’s about 33% lower than what we ought to expect from something that has Napa printed prominently on its label.
Yearning for lofty marble columns, classical music, and pomp and circumstance? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Fancy classic rock music playing while a smoker servers up BBQ fare out back beyond the trailers? Then Amici is your place, and these just might be your wines…
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Later this year, I will have the pleasure of judging at the 2015 edition of the San Francisco International Wine Competition. This will mark my second year as a judge at SFIWC, and is part of my gettin’ busy Summer, during which I’ve somehow amassed a series of competitions, tours, and speaking gigs with little rest between them.
My understanding is that somehow that peripatetic sequence is part of Marvel Studios’ Phase Five plan.
Anyway, I suspect that, while I will enjoy myself at SFIWC immensely, I most likely will not enjoy it quite as immensely as last year, when I had the good fortune of being seated with event host Anthony Dias Blue. Which meant that our table got to judge the best bubbles (by reputation, anyway!) submitted in the competition.
Once can hope, though, right?
Anyway, much more to come on that as events unfold. SFIWC will take place in… San Francisco (duh!) on June 12, 13 and 14.
I do believe that our Furmint adventures, alas, come to an end with this episode, the eleventh in the series (more were filmed, but I’m not sure in what context those will be cropping up; when they do I will let you know). Special thanks to all of those who were responsible for making this happen; I will treasure the memories, the wines, and the insane amount of inside jokes that were added to my already peripatetic personal narrative!
Going Pro with A Go Pro in Tokaj
We go out strong, my friends: in this incarnation, I meet the young and social-media-savvy winemaker László Szilágyi, who hikes me up a steep vineyard, let’s me go a bit crazy with his Go Pro camera, and puts my taste-buds to the test with two of his finest Furmint wines from the Gizella Cellar label.
The wines are excellent… almost as good as the views from the top of the vineyard, and almost as fun as horsing around with a Go Pro.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the Furmint USA video series (if you enjoyed them a tenth as much as I did making them, we will have accomplished something!).
Furmint Adventures Episode 11: Gizella Cellar